Our first school building

We have land, and soon we will have our first building.  Work has started on a small relocatable office so we can test some eco-building ideas, and test ourselves at managing a community build.  There are so many options and ideas when it comes to building, especially eco-friendly, natural and healthy building.  As a community project we have a deep pool of ideas and opinions to consider.  Fortunately there are some guiding values and principles that we all share.

Firstly, the health of our community and families, and the quality of teaching are more important than the buildings we inhabit.  However, the built environment, both indoor and outdoor spaces, influences learning, so we want buildings that support our pedagogy and inspire our children.  We also want the buildings to reflect our values.  We place high value on beauty, care of nature and people, and connection.  These values started to narrow our design options. We also believe the buildings need to reflect our place, here in Tasman, New Zealand.  This is a farming area with young landscapes and earthquake activity.  Then there are all the questions about the practicalities of using natural materials such as earth and straw, the ability to comply with the building code while avoiding chemically treated timber, and the best way to use unskilled volunteer labour.

Often the best was to learn is to do, so we started to build.  Some materials were ordered, some donated, some new and some second hand.  By keeping our floor area under 10 square metres we did not need a Building Consent, but we still needed to comply with the building code.  We chose a light timber frame of untreated Douglas Fir, exterior cladding is redwood with a natural oil finish, interior walls are either wool insulation with timber linings, or a light earth and straw mixture. We couldn’t avoid metal (nails and strapping) but we did avoid glues and fibreglass.

We have received some sponsorship from suppliers.  The Natural House Company donated the oil and Bio Paints donated paint.  The volunteer workers deserve special mention and appreciation.  James, Ron, Michael, John and others, you guys are fantastic and we thank you.

When the office is finished it will become the project office for the New Campus Group, located at the current school site.  It will then be relocated to the farm to be the site office once construction starts.  Its final use will be a parent room or an extra office at the new campus.

We are crowdfunding at http://givealittle.co.nz/project/ecobuild to pay the bills.  Our target is $15,000.  Please visit the site and share with as many friends as possible.

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